Investing in your community

January 2009 » Columns
In our professional work, we are creating the infrastructure to support our communities, so it’s only fitting that we lend our time and money to help these communities thrive and prosper.
Joe Hart

DAVID EVANS & ASSOCIATES, INC.
Headquarters: Portland, Ore.
Number of offices: 22
Total number of employees: 953
Year firm was established: 1976
Total billings for fiscal year 2007: $182.7 million
Website: www.deainc.com
Painting a transitional housing unit on a Saturday morning with 15 co-workers may not sound like the usual way to relax on the weekend. But in the Denver office of David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA), it’s an invaluable opportunity for our firm to give back to our community. Since 2002, we’ve partnered with Denver-based Family HomeStead to help the organization fulfill its mission of providing emergency and transitional housing to homeless families with children.

Involvement is one of our company’s core values: "We are good citizens. We volunteer for and provide professional advice to a variety of community projects and enterprises." It’s a non-negotiable activity for us because our work involves designing projects for the community, and it’s essential that we are active members in that community. We’ve seen how our contributions of both time and money have made an impact in our communities, and we’ve witnessed the unexpected benefits our volunteer efforts have given us in the business community.

Tap into professional expertise
There are many ways besides financial assistance that firms can become involved in their communities. As engineers, we possess knowledge and professional skills that can be of huge benefit to organizations. For instance, in 2005, DEA’s CEO Ken Wightman stepped in to champion the Fort-to-Sea Trail project for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration. This project involved designing and building a trail extending from Sunset Beach on the Oregon coast to Fort Clatsop, Ore., the fort where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1805-06.

Prior to DEA’s involvement, the project was plagued with problems such as insufficient funding, an inadequate work force, environmental permitting hurdles, an aggressive schedule, and no means to build bridges along the trail route. DEA reached out to its peers in local firms and, as a result, 14 engineering firms committed to helping on the project. Collectively, this team donated approximately $400,000 in time to the project, which was completed on schedule for the celebration.

Give when finances are tight
Many firms don’t have a lot of funds to donate, so it’s sometimes difficult to feel that you are making an impact. However, there are many ways firms can make meaningful contributions within existing budgets.

Give donations to non-profit organizations rather than purchasing giveaway items for conferences or tradeshows. We’ve seen many firms do this, and we chose to follow this path for a GreenBuild conference a few years ago. Rather than buying chocolates or company-branded trinkets, we let booth visitors know that the money that would have been used to buy these items would instead be donated to an environmentally conscious cause.

Many firms give out calendars, cards, pens, et cetera, to clients on an annual basis. Instead of giving a gift, opt to donate the money to a charitable cause. Send clients a note as you normally would, but let them know that in lieu of a gift, money was donated to a specific cause. Not only does this allow you to give back, but it also lets your clients know that you are invested in your community. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

Engage employees in community outreach
Providing opportunities for employees to engage in community outreach is also a wonderful way to increase your firm’s involvement. Many firms allow employees to use an hour per week (during work hours) for a volunteer activity. Some firms allow employees to have flexible schedules to provide time to volunteer.

Also, ask employees if they would like to donate to a charity rather than receiving holiday gifts from the firm. You’ll be amazed by how many employees will opt to forgo company-branded sweatshirts to donate to a charitable cause.

Lastly, ask employees for advice on how to contribute to the community and which organizations they wish to support. Giving back to the community is not only the right thing to do, it is also a good business investment.

In our professional work, we are creating the infrastructure to support our communities, so it’s only fitting that we lend our time and money to help these communities thrive and prosper.


Joe Hart is the Rocky Mountain regional manager for David Evans and Associates, Inc., a multi-disciplinary, employee-owned firm with offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New York, Oregon, and Washington. He can be contacted at jaha@deainc.com.


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